November 17, 2012
When she was born, they wanted a normal child, which she was, thank God. Bald head, petite fingernails that her sister kissed, and screaming lips wrapped around naked gums.

When she was three, she knew no shame, because no one had told her that a round tummy wasn’t to be flaunted or pale skin wasn’t beautiful. She played Stevie Wonder CDs and clapped her small hands together, fire engine red lips panting along to “Isn’t She Lovely” because she knew that she was. When her fingernails scratched the surface, it replayed her favorite part, repeating recorded happiness and she danced to the steadiness of repetition.

When she was five, a sticky stutter sat on her mouth, and she didn’t understand why her words wouldn’t behave. She hated the speech therapist that smelled of embarrassment for the child who c-c-c-couldn’t speak, and her cold office where it only worsened. The start of school only swelled her speech misery, and she hid behind her mothers skirt, felt the bow of her own lips, and wondered why it was doing this to her.

When she was seven, she forgot about the repetition of her tongue and learned that she was smart. Her lips became her greatest weapon- they came upon answers before her peers and formed words that she didn’t even know she knew, and the praise replaced her embarrassment.

When she was nine, she wanted to kiss a boy in her class who had hair in his big brown eyes, but she settled for holding his hand instead. She was quiet around him, tiptoeing around her words, so as not to trip in a flashback being to five. Instead she stretched her lips into a smile and dreamed about what kissing tasted like.

When she was eleven, she had her first meeting of the lips with a boy in the midst of a sweaty dance, surrounded by the gyrating hips of older kids. She could feel her cheeks reddening in time with his, and they stumbled to the balcony where they spent the rest of the night. She couldn’t distinguish whether or not it was the air or his lips that smelled like pine needles and wind. To check, she kissed him again. It was the air, but he kissed her back anyway.

When she was thirteen she had a boy who gave her his hoodie when she was cold and held her hand when she was afraid. When his lips grazed hers, they tasted like cinnamon and he whispered she was beautiful. Putting his callused hands on her waist she kissed him till she could hear music in her head, then walked the frosty ten blocks home, replaying his curved lips on hers over and over. Months later he tasted like the kids who smoke behind the alley during lunch, and she pulled away in surprise, wondering where the cinnamon had gone to and how she could get it back. His eyes were red, and she bailed, not recognizing the stranger in front of her. The next week, she ended it crying, but tasted the pot on his lips a couple more times because he was so gentle and it felt so good.

When she was fifteen she went to Paris and met someone else’s lips. They didn’t taste of cinnamon and pot, (though sometimes she wished they did, she would never admit it, but she missed it) they wore smoke and red wine instead. The language barrier didn’t stop their mouths. When he whispered French into her ear, she melted into him because it was so pretty and so foreign and felt so good. He taught her how to say, “Kiss me” in his way and she murmured it over and over, embrasse-moi, embrasse-moi, embrasse-moi, and so he did. On her last day, she put her hand in his curls and said thank you, he said my pleasure because it was. So she stepped on the avion and never looked back.

When she was seventeen her lips stopped. They didn’t kiss or laugh, and she stopped stuttering altogether because speech was so seldom. Her friends asked her what was wrong, and her lips weighed down on her teeth, so she shrugged instead. Boys didn’t talk to her. Pot and cinnamon lips avoided her gaze, kissed her best friend in front of her; she just didn’t see his eyes were set on her for all seven Mississippi’s. She tried to sing, but the sound of her own voice made her sick and the sound of her fingers on her guitar made her even sicker.

When she was nineteen, she was numb.

When she was twenty-one, she had her first and second and third and fourth legal drink until her vision blurred and she lost count. She passed out that night, her lips stained with cheap red wine. A stranger, a tall dark man, straightened his hat, stooped down, and kissed her. She could have fought back, but her head was so light and his touch so strong, so she let her and her lips float upupupandaway, to a place where five year olds didn’t stutter, beautiful boys didn’t smoke pot, and twenty one year olds didn’t drink their way down to death.

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dancingintheflames This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 28, 2013 at 8:22 pm
That was so amazing. It was like i was living her life. Great work!
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